Mix a 16th century poem for the plot line, and long-time favourite arias from, inter alia, Vivaldi, Handel, Gluck and Telemann. Stir in an astonishingly talented newcomer, baritone Jeremy Kleemamn. Add tried and true Emma Matthews and Sally-Anne Russell, and you have a recipe for excellence.
The plot – bellicose Orlando becomes un-hinged by losing in love. Astolpho (Sally Anne Russell) and a wise magician (Jeremy Kleeman) travel to the moon (as you do) to convince the combative guardian (Emma Matthews) to restore his sanity, packed "to go" in a battered leather portmanteau.
Said plot is no more, and no less convincing than the plot of many established operas.
But it does serve as the hook from which to hang arias showcasing madness, anger, love, forgiveness, and humour. The trip to the moon allows the singers to have fun, shared happily by the audience.
The singers are superb. Emma Matthews is given the chance to showcase her technique and range, sprinkling her arias with throw-away high notes and copious ornamentation. Sally Anne Russell "hams" her part to perfection, while keeping flawless vocal technique. Jeremy Kleeman's range was astonishing, and his performance made us want to hear more of this extremely talented young man.
Emma Black on oboe was outstanding, weaving her magic around the singers with spell-binding virtuosity and beauty of tone. The entire instrumental ensemble was outstanding, playing with brilliance, energy, sensitivity and passion. Phoebe Briggs directed from the harpsichord.
The set was minimalist – comprising artfully positioned theatrical trunks, musical stands and an elegantly crafted and lit moon. That said, the singers' costumes were lavish and eye-catching, particularly the over-the-top garb for the guardian of the moon – which elicited gasps, murmurs of well-earned approval and applause from the audience. We were told after the show that they had shortened the business-like swords, as the diminutive soloists couldn't replace the original longer ones in their scabbards.
Let's hope that Opera Victoria and Musica Viva build on this very successful co-operative venture. This reviewer, for one, would be keen to attend more pastiches.